Of black magic and envy

New Age Xtra finds out from people in Dhaka who believe they have been done wrong through black magic

SANAUL HAQUE

SANAUL HAQUE

Marium is a young divorcee in her thirties and the mother of an adorable little girl. She is attractive, intelligent and vivacious and after completing her master’s degree in Fashion Design and Marketing in the States, she came back to Bangladesh during the early 2000’s with bright prospects and a host of suitors.
Somehow, things took a wrong turn somewhere along the road leading to her reputation as a former ‘party girl’ and then the eventual demise of her marriage. She is currently unemployed and living at her parents’ house with her daughter as she tries to maintain a positive attitude. ‘I love my daughter very much, she is all I have,’ she says. ‘Before setting goals and achieving them was a piece of cake for me. I worked in Beverly Hills, had an amazing life, went camping, drove sports cars. Now…’ she trails off.
‘My life did not turn out at all the way I thought that it would. People may think I am crazy for talking about this, but I want people to hear my story. It feels good to share because “Black Magic” that was done to me out of “love” ruined my life.’
More than just an urban myth, stories of Black Magic being practiced are rampant in our culture and not only confined to the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder. ‘People like me and you, we grow up with these stories – of tabeez (talisman) and stories of the Jinns and spirits are even in a number of holy books. Often life takes unexpected and unexplainable turns; when this happens, people search for answers. They go back to the roots,’ says Rajib (28), an inhabitant of Bhooter Goli in Dhanmondi. The practice of Black Magic has existed for centuries across all continents and cultures, he says.
The term ‘Black Magic’ often brings on much scorn and disbelief, but the word magic was first coined in the 14th century and was defined as ‘the art of influencing events and producing marvels using hidden natural forces.’ ‘It is nothing more than the subtle manipulation of energy,’ says Khaled Huda, a 31-year old illusionist and marketing professional.
He continues, ‘Some people understand that they can influence events to their desired outcome and they simply manipulate their way to that outcome in various ways. The power of words must never be underestimated when using “autosuggestion”, or to lead a person into a thought.’
The term ‘black magic’ refers to the belief in, and practice of, calling upon supernatural powers, through various means (such as spells and incantations), often with the intention of producing and inflicting harm. Black magic is commonly viewed as an expression of ‘The Occult’.
The motivation behind Black Magic itself, as it is believed, is always malicious, stemming from greed and envy and intended to bring harm upon another. This harm can be in the form of ill-health, loss of a relationship or fall from a position of prestige. Often, those involved in casting the Black Magic spells are family members or someone close to the victim, sometimes for the purpose of gaining control over another, usually over property.
‘My mother would find all these strange things and talk about them but I never paid attention to these. You don’t when you are young,’ says Marium. ‘She found something on it with the sign of the Devil “666” on it, an odd picture of a man with script written in Arabic – a Du’a written backwards, pieces of cloth cut out from clothes. At first I used to laugh these things off, but when I sit and think about the way my life was and the way it turned out, you have to wonder’, she says thoughtfully. ‘It’s like I went from “elite” to “ghetto”.’
Manipulating events also includes using the not so hidden knowledge of a serious lackings of the legal system in Bangladesh where property laws date back to the colonial period, and divided according to religious beliefs with Muslims, Hindus and Christians each with their own inheritance laws. Add in a dodgy land mapping system, and a dodgier stipulation of squatter’s rights over the property and you have all the ingredients for the more demonic cousin of jealousy, ‘envy’ to rear its’ ugly head.
Envy is arguably the most insidious of human emotions for several reasons the most obvious one being you keep it a secret, even to yourself. It stems from comparing yourself with others, and what you perceive yourself as ‘not having’. Envy has many hidden dragons of manifestation as well, attraction being one.
According to Psychology Today ‘it is possible to mistake attraction to another person for what is actually your envy of them. The hostility that you might experience with envy of a competitor is missing in this instance because the expectation is that you will get the envied attribute by association. Thus, you can “fall in love” with what you want for yourself that another person has–status, money, power, family ties, or intelligence–rather than with who that person really happens to be.’
Another disturbing fact about envy is that you don’t quite own that emotion. Often it is inherited and comes from what your parents perceived themselves as not having, from their own social comparisons.
Much like Marium, Neha also had a quite tumultuous life, after a disrupted undergraduate education during which she got married and divorced, as well as fighting depression and substance abuse. ‘My parents did tabeez to me when I was younger,’ shares Neha, a 28 year old sales assistant. ‘They were not happy that I was dating a Christian and so I moved out and was staying at my aunt’s house. They convinced me to come back one weekend, and I remember I started feeling odd as soon as I walked in. Maybe it was my intuition warning me, but later I found a whole bunch of tabeez strewn in different corners of my room, under the doormat and in my pillowcase,’ she says in a matter-of-fact voice. ‘Of course they denied it,’ she adds.
‘I can’t tell you how much money I spent behind this. For someone to help me or give me answers. I went to celebrity psychics in USA and I went to people who do navel cleansing for less than 50 tk in Shakhari Bajar,’ says Marium. ‘It’s a tiny room where you go lie down on a bed and a man rubs shorishar tel on your navel, puts his fingers inside your belly button and pulls out items that were used against you. Like hair, nails, pieces of cloth all tied up together. I could feel it coming out of my belly, and it had that damp smell.’
A priest of a mosque in Dhaka shares with New Age Xtra that there are many people who believe in black magic, although it is prohibited by most mainstream faiths including Islam.
He claims that black magic has been a part of human culture even before these faiths had emerged. ‘People still believe in such black magic as it helps them attain goals and achieve their desired results. The cost of each spell varies from Tk 5,000 to even five to six lakh takas,’ he shares.
‘There are many people who do not believe in black magic. But even they can fall under these spells which vary from controlling a person to harming people in the greatest degree.’
Stressing that he never took part in such spells, he informs, ‘Some of the most dastardly things like soil and bones from graves, lizard tails etc. are used in preparing these spells.’
Black Magic and envy are intrinsically linked because the significant way in which we define ourselves has to do with ideals, ambitions, and values. Often, especially in the context of Bangladesh, this ideal comes from social comparisons. Your sense of self is constantly measuring itself against your ideals and coming to various conclusions. If you measure up, you feel good, excited, and even elated. If you don’t measure up you may feel depressed, or ashamed.
Marium says, ‘I don’t know if it worked or not or if this was just my fate. But I learnt how strong I am through my ordeals, and what I am capable of achieving when I am in the right frame of mind.’

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